Inside the Beltway, Outside of History -- In the Bubble of Obama's "Moment"

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"The Moment"--that's what they're calling Barack Obama's inauguration here in D.C. Of course, this is a liberal town, and liberals are obviously quite happy to enshrine this moment in their hearts--and wallets. Yes We Can have bigger government: What proper Washingtonian isn't for that?

And yes, the inauguration of the first African-American president is a turning point in history. The cartoonist Darrin Bell captured some of the gravity of the transition in his "Candorville" comic striptoday, depicting many, many famous figures of black heritage--from Martin Luther King Jr. to Thurgood Marshall to Frederick Douglass--all on the podium looking on as Obama is sworn in as the 44th President.


In D.C. these past few days, the Democrats -- having won big-- are out in force: sporting Obama buttons, wearing Obama T-shirts, waving Obama pennants--even some obligatory Obama funny hats.

But a surprising number of these celebrants are flaunting fur coats as they walk to their limos idling in front of the ritzy hotels that dot downtown. "Party of the people"?

Well, the rich are "the people," too--that's the new party line. Indeed, in the America of 2009, what was once derided as a "subsidy for millionaires" is now praised as a "vital liquidity injection." Which is to say, "trickle down"is here with a most literal vengeance: The government gives fat-cats and big banks and corporations money, in the hope that it will trickle down to the rest of us.

Meanwhile, it seems to me that there's a lot of carbon dioxide being produced here, inside the Beltway. All those limos are idling as they wait for their upscale riders, and so are the military Humvees that have been drafted into street-closing duty. When it gets cold, everyone seems to agree that staying warm is more important than reducing "greenhouse gases." Indeed, according to one estimate,these inaugural festivities will generate more than half-a-billion pounds of carbon dioxide, including 260 million pounds from the 600 private jets that have ferried the best-and-the-richest to D.C.

Is this really what Democrats stand for? The upward transfer of wealth and a continuation of the fossil-fuel status quo? Yes, it's hard to believe, but as noted, political events are a little holiday from history and reality. For these brief glittering moments, Washington is Bling City, a place where Democrats have gathered to tell each other, "Our Time Has Come"--as the limos, and their big engines, puff their CO2 outside.

Yet history tells us that times come, and then they go. Obama looks great right now, but of course, he hasn't done anything yet.

For now and for the next few days, he is safe inside his political bubble, adored by his partisan fans.

But soon, Obama will find himself outside of the political bubble, back in the arena of history, where bad things can happen.

And then we'll see what he's made of.